Seretse and Ruth in Serowe

Seretse, accompanied by Ruth, is welcomed by vice president Quett Masire to the BDPs 1978 Conference in Serowe. PIC: SANDY GRANT
Seretse, accompanied by Ruth, is welcomed by vice president Quett Masire to the BDPs 1978 Conference in Serowe. PIC: SANDY GRANT

After last week’s blunder with the title of the Heritage column, it was almost mandatory for me to choose for this week another Seretse and Ruth photo.

Perhaps this decision is a challenge of sorts to see if the Mmegi staff member who changed my Seretse and Ruth headline to Sir Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams is still in business and still insistent that eighteen years after they were married, Sir Seretse was still being accompanied by a mere companion.  I had asked that Mmegi apologise for this offensive and obviously ridiculous statement - for statement it was - and had asked it to clarify that I had not been responsible for it.

At the time of writing, however, I have had no assurance from Mmegi that it intends to make such an apology and as a result, am obliged to express my own regrets on its behalf, and on my own, for a blunder -  it cannot possibly be called a mistake - of such breath taking stupidity. Why anyone would decide that my submitted headline, ‘Seretse and Ruth’ had to be so corrected is baffling. Perhaps it was felt to be over familiar. But newspaper columns are personal contributions - so I have always felt free to refer to Seretse and Ruth, as they then were to many people in the years before his death in 1980.

The point that has to be made, it seems, is that the omission of Seretse’s title did not in any way indicate disrespect.

In contrast, it represented a way of identifying with the country’s new leader and a recognition that with him the traditional relationship between ruler and ruled had been dramatically changed.

In a way, this was the meaning of Independence. But today it must be understood that there was no precedent in this country for a change of such magnitude.  Before Seretse and 1966 there had never been a national leader.  The only available models would have been the Bangwato and Bangwaketse Dikgosi, Tshekedi (1905-69) and Bathoen who had both ensured that there was always a significant gap between them and their tribal subjects.. Almost overnight, however, Seretse took it upon himself to reduce that gap so that people such as you or me, could talk with ease about him as Seretse without first having to grovel in the dust. Single handedly, and almost over night, he effected a new kind of leadership and a new kind relationship between himself as the country’s first time ever national leader, and the people he was now leading.

It was new territory for everyone. But that model has been enduring – having been adopted in their differing ways by all the three Presidents who have succeeded him.

Because today, it’s so familiar – it’s not something to which we give much thought - but look around at other African States and it will be obvious that few share this particular, remarkable characteristic.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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